Whoever Wins Presidency, Federal Oversight of Assisted Living a Strong Concern

With the U.S. Presidential election still up in the air on Wednesday, the future direction of public policies that would affect senior living remained uncertain. But regardless of who ultimately wins the White House, tighter federal oversight and regulation of the industry appears likely.

“In the months and years to come, we anticipate additional scrutiny particularly as it relates to issues such as reporting, infection prevention and control, and quality care and services,” James Balda, president and CEO of industry association Argentum, said in a statement Wednesday. “And we are acutely aware that it’s not enough to be at the table for these discussions; the industry needs to set the table for those conversations and stand ready to react and respond accordingly.”

The spectre of regulation stems from the industry’s concerted effort to gain the attention of Washington, D.C. lawmakers during the Covid-19 pandemic, as they have pushed for fiscal relief and other forms of support.

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This push involved educating federal officials who were unfamiliar with assisted living, given that the industry is almost entirely regulated at the state level, American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living President and CEO Mark Parkinson said last week.

These efforts have borne fruit, as assisted living has started to receive monetary support from a fund established through the CARES Act, and is included in an initiative to distribute Covid-19 vaccines when they become available.

But with the spotlight now on the industry, legislators have already begun crafting bills focused on assisted living, Argentum pointed out.

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“Regulatory oversight remains a strong concern with either Republicans or Democrats in control of the Senate,” Argentum stated in a commentary on the election results. “However, because most of the legislation introduced to regulate the industry is led by Democrats, a divided Congress may be helpful to prevent overly burdensome regulation to the industry.”

While several Senate races remain undecided, the GOP appears likely to maintain control of that house of Congress. If this comes to pass, the industry might also stand a better chance of seeing liability protection introduced, related to services rendered during Covid-19. But such a measure would have to pass the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives and could be vetoed at the White House if Joe Biden becomes president.

Some D.C. insiders believe that even if Biden is elected, liability reform could pass during the lame duck session of Congress before he is sworn in, Parkinson noted last week.

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Two long-time public policy professionals — ATI Advisory CEO Anne Tumlinson and former Avalere Health CEO Dan Mendelson — warned recently that additional federal regulation of assisted living is perhaps inevitable, and urged providers to take a proactive approach to shaping a framework.

It’s a message that Balda also pushed on Wednesday.

“We are acutely aware that it’s not enough to be at the table for these discussions; the industry needs to set the table for those conversations and stand ready to react and respond accordingly,” he said.

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